So we’re finally on our way. We are doing a 12 day ‘acclimatisation trek‘’, steadily increasing our altitude until we reach 16,000 feet. Base Camp is the same height but it would be dangerous to ascend too quickly without acclimatising first. Our bodies need to adjust to the thin air.
At the end of the trek we will go back down to 4,000 feet and cross into Tibet over ‘Friendship Bridge’. Then we will travel for three days to get to Base Camp. We have been warned we’ll still have headaches and generally feel quite ill when we get there but this trek should help. For me the trek is as much fitness training as anything else – I didn’t do enough over the last six months!
We set out on Thursday in a mini bus with 10 of us packed inside and a mountain of luggage on the roof. We drove for a couple of hours through the smog and filth of Kathmandu. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of refuse collection here and all the rubbish is dumped on the street. There must be millions of tons of the stuff everywhere. The river that flows though the town is choked with it and the banks are lined with shanty towns. Many people wear masks when walking outside.
The traffic is horrendous with cars and buses in various states of disrepair all blowing their horns every minute, and thousands of motorbikes weaving in and out. The roads are terrible with potholes everywhere. This has got to be the most dangerous part of the trip. There seem to be hundreds of smartly dressed policemen everywhere, with three or four at every road junction directing traffic, but it doesn’t seem to help at all as there are no rules!
Eventually we were out of the town but the haze still lingered in the valleys. The mountain roads were narrow with steep drops to the side. Rocks and mud from landslides half blocked the road every mile of so. All along the route rubbish was lining the roads. The mountain roads were narrow but that didn’t stop our driver overtaking on hairpin bends!
After four hours we stopped for lunch in a surprisingly nice lodge. The scenery was spectacular. Eventually we arrived at the starting point of our trek, a narrow steel rope footbridge across the valley.
It was hot and we all struggled to get going up the steep mountainside with our rucksacks. A small army of porters were waiting for us and began tying the rest of our luggage into enormous bundles with several bags tied together. Kit bags, tents, food cooking utensils were all strapped into loads that I couldn’t physically lift. The porters were all thin and small and weighed less than the load they were expected to carry. These were lifted onto their back and held by a rope around their forehead protected only by a strip of sacking. We queried if we needed more porters, and each load made smaller, but no. This was how it was to be done.
There were stone steps cut into the mountainside taking us up through endless terraces of various crops planted in narrow strips. They must have been built over generations. We climbed one thousand vertical metres through the most spectacular scenery but with rubbish everywhere. These people live in one of the most beautiful places on earth but seem to have no concept of caring for their environment.
We pitched camp late afternoon just as it started to rain.
Our porters and crew were busy putting up the tents and cooking our meal (which was amazingly good.) We are saving the Loxton’s food until later and eating local foods but I’m being very careful not to eat anything raw. No salads or garnish and no fruit. Our water is boiled and then we use an ultra violet light pen to sterilise it further.
Yesterday morning we were up at 6:00 am with breakfast served on an outside table in the sunshine. Porridge and fried eggs never tasted so good.
Duffy had been ill all through the night and was not in good shape for most of the day. I saw him eating salad last night and suggested he didn’t. His response was that if he was going to get stomach trouble he might as well get it over with. His wish came true!!!
We left the campsite at 8:00am with another steep climb of 1,000 vertical metres up continuous stone steps cut into the mountainside. We passed many villages with pretty houses clinging to the mountainside – or at least they seemed pretty from a distance! The locals were cheery and friendly but you wondered how they eked out a living from their terraces and a few goats and scrawny cattle. The weather was hot in the bright sunshine. We were in shorts and hiking boots but going at a very slow pace. Rubbish again lined our route the whole of the way.
We got to our second campsite early afternoon. A big lunch, clean up, relax, a big dinner and early to bed. In spite of a chorus of snores from various tents we slept well.
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